Monday, October 22, 2012

I Don’t Always Stretch, But When I Do I Pretend To Know What I’m Doing

I’m confused. About stretching. Stretching was something runners used to be told to do before and after. Then it became just after. Now it’s become never, depending on who you talk to. The last sport’s doc I went to highly discouraged stretching and this guy does too.

What? And, why?

I do know that when I stretch more I don’t always feel better, and sometimes feel much worse. It feels good in the moment, kind of like doing that fourth shot of tequila, but then it seems to mess me up over the long run. Or, maybe stretching isn’t messing me up. Maybe it’s a multitude of other factors. Why, oh why is it so tough to isolate the messer-upper?

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So, I did some research because that’s what I do when I want to fix my life. But let me tell you friends, there is a shite load of conflicting messages out there in regards to stretching.

  • Don’t stretch! It will lengthen your muscles too much and decrease performance.
  • Stretch! It will decrease your chances of tearing or straining a muscle!
  • Only do dynamic (moving) stretches, never do static stretches.
  • Never, ever stretch before you run because your muscles aren’t warmed up.

After all of my research, it seems most can agree on a couple key things:

  1. More injuries would be prevented by better warm-ups, strength training, and balance exercises than by stretching.
  2. Older runners (example: me) benefit more from stretching because as you age, you lose elasticity.
  3. The benefits of stretching likely vary from runner to runner. Most runners do best sticking with whatever routine they have been doing and not changing it up.
  4. If you are going to stretch, don’t do it until you’ve warmed up.
  5. Stretching will not make you able to do what a dog does – you know what I mean (I made that one up).

Okay, now that makes sense to me. You?

Do you stretch? Do you think it has helped with injury prevention?

If you don’t stretch, why not?

SUAR

PS: The winner of the Subway gift card is # 337 Heidi Back. Email me at beth@shutupandrun.net to claim your prize!

50 comments:

  1. I used to stretch but now I stretch infrequently. I am dealing with some Plantar Fasciitis so I try to stretch my calves when I think of it. I generally spend more time foam rolling, rolling my foot on a golf ball, icing and ultrasounding. I've never actually noticed any benefits from stretching so now I feel like it may actually be kind of pointless. Miss Zippy had a whole post awhile back on stretching and it kind of swayed me in the direction of not stretching. To each her own. :)

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  2. I'm so bad about stretching after a run.

    However, I do go to yoga twice a week, so that counts ;)

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  3. All I know is that I used to stretch religiously after every workout. This past year, I stopped...and I have been chronically injured. :( I have recently added it back into my routine. I am hoping it helps again.

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  4. It sounds like getting older is a problem. Guess I need to stretch more! I don't stretch a lot, but I do stretch after pilates or after running. Sometimes I stretch in the car, airplane or where ever. It depends, if I feel stiff and tight, I'll stretch. I don't push it though. Sissy stretching.

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  5. Hehe #5...

    I don't stretch before a run except if i've slept wrong (i'm a morning runner), or if i'm having a pain in a regular area (at one point, my hip flexor was goofy, but felt fine if i stretched as soon as i woke). I don't really warm up, except if whatever running program i'm doing has it written into the directions, even if the general directions say i should-i'm a rebel.

    I almost always stretch after my run...not a lot, but a few that seem to help and i notice if i haven't done them (particularly that pesky hip flexor). I usually don't after a race b/c i'm jumping in the van with the fam....sitting all crunched up...and i'm almost always sorry i don't tell them they need to chill for 5-10 more mins. :)

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  6. Nope! You know I gave it up and am happier for it. Yoga, I think, is good, but plain old static stretching, no. It's funny: I just read a quote about how when people look back on injuries, it's the overtraining they can point to, not the lack of stretching or lack of an ice bath, or lack of compression wear, etc. Interesting perspective!

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  7. I don't stretch before I run, I only stretch afterwards. I have also started to use a foam roller for my IT issues. I am hoping it helps!

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  8. I do feel better (less tight, stiff) when I stretch after I run. But I typically forget to do it because I'm easily distr.... Oo, who bought cookies?

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    1. Ok, now that's funny right there :-)

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    2. Thanks. Funny, yes. But also sort of sad.... :)

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  9. I'm with you. Confused! I stopped ,then went back to it. I'm old, 48. I use foam roller and do pigeon post and also dynamic warmup. Cheers!

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  10. I swapped all my pre/postworkout stretching for foam rolling. I've been trying to make sure I do solid warmups and cool downs though. I think that is much more important. I believe in weight training and cross training for staying injury free.

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  11. Stretching is the best. I teach classes to "mature adults" and it's like drinking from the fountain of youth. Active Isolated Stretching is the best of all.

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  12. I use the roller, trigger point ball and/or stick after runs. I also try to roll at night. Seems to help. Stretching usually resulted in more injuries, in my case, but I am the most inflexible person on earth.

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  13. I usually stretch after my warm-up walk, then stretch afterwards. I know that if I don't stretch, my left knee gets really tight and hurts while I run, so when I stop to stretch it, I can continue on pain free. I just got back from a run and didn't stretch and my left leg is pretty sore. I have no idea what's right/wrong!

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  14. I stretch. I do yoga. I do the foam roller. But I'm old...

    Jenny Hadfield has a great quickie stretch routine you can do after a run: the minimalist guide to stretching: http://www.jennyhadfield.com/free-guides-download/

    Helps a ton!

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  15. I don't stretch. I don't do yoga. At one time, I did do both. I also really ,really strained, pulled my hamstrings doing yoga. I don't know what to do about the whole stretching debacle. I do like the roller idea, in fact I have one around here somewhere.

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  16. I am horrible about stretching but I have noticed the dynamic stretching helps me pre-run.

    Also, I have issues with shin splints but icing and ibuprofen seems to be more helpful than any stretches I've tried.

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  17. I stretch only my shoulders, particularly my right shoulder. If I don't, they tense up like nobody's business and I have to stop to stretch mid-run. But I very, very rarely stretch anything else -- I just start out slow and let my warm-up stretch me out, and I've never had issues with it.

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  18. I do stretch after my workouts...not a lot, I need to do more. I had a HORRIBLE injury 2 years ago and I was out of running for 4.5 months. It was no good. I found out how important it is to stretch. I am a certified personal trainer and I already knew how important it was but I guess I had to learn the hard way before I actually spent enough time doing it. Almost EVERY injury is due to muscle imbalances so the key is to figure out what your imbalances are and work on them. We all have imbalances I'm sure. I also find that a good yoga session does wonders for me, now I just need to find the time and do it more. My Dr. told me to do a dynamic warm-up before I run!

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  19. I stretch my hips mostly - and hamstrings after speed workout - I find that the foam roller is my best friend instead.

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  20. I rarely stretch before or after runs. Sometimes during a run, if I am feeling the need, I will stretch but it's usually not productive <20 seconds. I do feel really good after yoga but I know I do not do enough yoga to be "flexible"
    I have a friend who runs marathons regularly with a rigorous training schedule and he NEVER stretches. Freaks me out every time! He just waits in the porta-potty (to stay warm) until the race starts... then he just runs.

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  21. The whole "children don't stretch" argument is ridiculous. Has he (the author of the article you referenced) ever watched children? they reach, they twirl, they twist... constantly. I took my 5 yo daughter for a run last week (she wanted to) and our "run" included dancing, cartwheels, running backwards and a lot of jumping. I will stop stretching when I can cartwheel and twirl like a ballerina down the road :)

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    1. Your daughter runs like my 6 year old daughter - who 'runs' a pretty fast mile considering!

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  22. Do you stretch? Do you floss? Most people say they do but don't. Both are probably good for you but I rarely do either. Maybe before a race or a dental appointment. Otherwise, forget it.

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  23. Great post! I too, have found the 'advice' on stretching to be really confusing. I try to stretch a few times a day but mostly because my muscles are so tight all the time. I spend way too much time sitting at my desk at work.

    Love the graphic, by the way!

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  24. i stopped stretching after college XC was over. our coach made PNF stretching MANDATORY after every practice-as well as ice baths in the creek. if we forgot our strap for stretching,we were in big trouble!!!(yeah,either hill repeats until vomiting,or a 4am dawn patrol swim session...)
    so now i rarely stretch,unless i feel unusually tight after a run. and i never stretch cold muscles.always warm!
    good post chica!

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  25. Yeah, I used to think stretching was important but I think I've decided it's not (what a well thought-out idea, right?). I read a couple of studies saying that you should keep doing what you've been doing (if you don't stretch, don't start and vice versa), but don't ask me to name specifics. I don't do it more because I'm lazy, but I haven't felt any difference when I do stretch.

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  26. My body doesn't stretch!!!

    That said I'm in the strenthen camp, and if you are doing anything stupid like trying to run fast (intervalls) a warmup jog and a couple of strides will do, start the strides slow and plick in the pace till you are running faster than normal, 2 -3 at that pace and you are ready to go...

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  27. I never stretch and have not been injured! *knock on wood* I'm not a fan a stretching...especially after reading articles that agree with me. Now I have a good reason not to stretch instead of just dislike. :)

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  28. I do half-hearted stretching after a run (usually) and I had some issues with my achilles tendon that seemed to be helped by a stretch particular to that area. I am very INflexible, so it probably doesn't actually LOOK like a stretch when I do it.

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  29. I'm not a stretcher as a rule (I'm 47). Probably only because I'm too lazy to do it. However developed a little bit of plantar fasciitis and so when I was getting rid of that, my chiropractor had me stop 10 minutes into a run and stretch my calves. So I did that, and it seemed to help.

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  30. I do an active warm up and save the stretching for after, and I can sure tell when I start to cheat on my stretching!

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  31. I do "formally" stretch, but it is minimal, and only after runs. I tend to do lots of what I call "cat stretches" at my desk. get up, reach for the sky, then bend over, that sort of thing. I like how it wakes me up.

    My calf muscles benefit from stretching, as do my hips. I don't tend to spend a lot of time on my quads and hams, or my IT band. Maybe I should, because I get super stiff sometimes. More yoga might help with that, more than stretching would.

    My husband doesn't stretch. He says it hurts. Doesn't seem to be a hindrance for him.

    I say do what you love, and what feels right. Stretch or no.

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  32. I stretch, without fail, before every run. Never used to stretch, ever, but once I ended up in PT after my first marathon, I took an abbreviated form of the stretching he had me doing during rehab, and I do that before every run now. Is that the right thing to do... I don't know. Did I used to get injured more than I do now, yes. Is that because of the stretching or because my body has adapted to the abuse ... don't know. It adds about 20-30 minutes to the routine, and makes me feel better about staying healthy, so I'm sticking with it.

    Also stretch my calves and quads after running. Nothing extensive, just a few min on each leg. Again .. don't know if that's the right thing to do, but I'm sticking with it for now.

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  33. I know you are very elastic. You can wrap your (leg) around a tree trunk twice. I am a yoga teacher and I don't stretch before a run. I only stretch afterwards if I have been running with someone who does and I don't want to be left out. i am a fraud and a sinner.

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  34. I Always forget to stretch before, but I (most of the time) stretch afterwards.

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  35. I also am so confused about the to-stretch-or-not-to-stretch debate, and the Sock Doc and that school of thought. I think I'll have to say what a lot of other people say about stretching, which is, do what works for you, for now, and if it stops working, try something else. That's what we all do anyway, isn't it?

    I'm not sure I understand the need to be judgmental or condescending (not you, but some of the other posts out there on the interwebs) about how people choose to exercise or stretch or not stretch. To each her own, right?

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  36. I stretch after every run. It feels good and helps work out tight areas.

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  37. I used to be a religious stretcher because I always had injuries but then I learned how to run properly for my body and now I only stretch briefly a few days a week post run. I start at the top of my body and stretch major muscle groups from my neck down to my calves, only holding for about 5 seconds. Just enough to get the kinks out!

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  38. So if I stretch, I'll be able to lick................

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  39. No stretching. Warm up only, and usually just as a slow start as opposed to a separate warmup (I'm not sprinting, after all).

    I do yoga, so that's my stretching, and if something feels tight I'll gently stretch it.

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  40. I do stretch after my long runs and sometimes a little after my shorter weekday runs. I think it helps keep the soreness away after a very long run. I found that my quads were sore the next day when I didn't stretch them enough. I like to do dynamic stretches before starting my run and do that before every run.

    I've not had an injury (knock on wood) yet. I would like to do more strength training.

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  41. I stretch a lot. I try not to stretch really at all before my runs unless I'm really tight and kind of just move around to stretch it out. I mostly stretch after I run/work out because it always makes me feel better afterwards! I learned that before a race you should do lunges and skip around for 3-4 minutes and that is the best way to warm up before a race.

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  42. I try to stretch after a workout, including running, but never before. I don't think it ever helped my running, but then again, nothing could. But, I feel awesome when my flexibility is at its best and I love to stretch because it feel SO good...and my fiance thanks me for being so flexible.

    Oh, on the chart, I'm totally "stop showing off, jerk."

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  43. I work out with a trainer 2 days a week. He goes through a half hour of assisted isolated stretching with me once a week...it's made a HUGE difference in my level of back pain and will usually help me with a long run the following day. I do own a foam roller and use it and stretch most nights before I go to bed.

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  44. At least it makes sense. I always that you have to stretch to avoid any injury but this explanation makes a lot more of sense.

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  45. Good for health stretching exercise and yoga :D you done a best job :)

    Stretching exercises with pictures

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